Swiss Watching trivia, No 22: Red Cross

August 22, 2010, 1 Comment

On 22 August 1864 the world changed. Maybe no-one realised at the time but now, 146 years later, we can see that day for what it was: the day when mankind found its conscience. The day the Red Cross was born. Twelve states signed the first Geneva Convention in Geneva’s Hôtel de Ville that day, setting out the rules governing the treatment of wounded soldiers on the battlefield. The document has only ten articles but, most importantly, it recognises the neutrality of medical staff, vehicles and buildings, as well stating that all combatants shall be cared for. And Article 7 says that “a distinctive and uniform flag shall be adopted … a red cross on a white ground”. Cue an iconic symbol of hope. By the way, the states were: Baden, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hesse, Italy, Portugal, Prussia, Switzerland, Spain, The Netherlands and Württemberg (four of them soon became part of a united Germany); no sign then of Britain, America or Russia. And it was all thanks to Henry Dunant, but his story can wait for another day.

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